9/25/16 ~ Spirituality

From the Preacher’s Pen ~ 

RacineBuildingWe, the spiritual, are at all times guided by our conscious submission to and dependence on the guidance of His Holy Spirit.  Prayers of thanksgiving and requests for help are constantly going up.  We live in a state of searching to see the gifts He has bestowed on us, and our thanks is given for each one.

The joy of submission never leaves our heart, and the joy of our soul is to find constant service to others. Our heart is never selfish, and the prayers for those of greatest need are the pleasure of our tongues. The beauty and cleanness of our Father’s earth are our loving concern.

No task is ever too great. We know if the Father has called us to the task, He has also provided the means whereby it can and must be done.  Our love for all has never been greater and is still growing.

There are no enemies left in our heart to forgive, and no offense remains greater than what we have no already forgiven. Fear, anger, hate and revenge are not a part of our character.

Each day is awakened to the joy and anticipation of the opportunities and services to Him that await our love and sincere service. Each night finds us prone in thanksgiving for the many challenges of strengthening, challenges with which His Holy Spirit has blessed our soul.

And, as the world around us fights its many wars, we sleep in the peace that only He can provide. We are His, and He is ours.

~~Malcolm E. Parsley

Korea News Report, Church of Christ Mission

(NOTE:  Malcolm has been a missionary in Korea since 1961 and has baptized thousands into Christ.)

 

 

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9/18/16 ~ Why Be Baptized

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWhenever we see something in God’s creation it ought to cause us to stop and remember our God and praise Him for the wonders we see. Whenever I see a baby it causes me to recall David and the wonders he saw in being fashioned by the hand of God. Whenever I see a new Christian it causes me to recall the wonder of that new birth and how it brings us into God’s family.

Many in the world claim to be children of God and yet have never been born into the family of God. Feeling that you are right with God counts for nothing if you are failing to actually obey what God tells you to do. (Remember last Sunday night’s lesson?) The Apostle Paul questioned some nice, seemingly godly people about just what the purpose was of their baptism (Acts 19:3).

When it was discovered that they had not been baptized for the right reason, they sought to correct that and thus fulfill God’s purpose. So it is an important – even vital – thing for us to remind ourselves of the real purpose of baptism…

Why Be Baptized?

Some years ago a sister in Christ brought me an article she’d found in the newspaper. The article discussed many things about baptism and why the author thought it important. What is so sad is that the author never once appealed to God’s word for help in understanding what it means to God. And, in so doing, he managed to delude himself – and undoubtedly many others – into missing the whole point of something God says is vital to our salvation.

Contrast that author and another gentleman some years later. This man spent a considerable amount of time studying the Bible. Why so much time and effort? Because he sincerely wanted to know and obey God’s will! As a result of actually looking at God’s word instead of what people thought, this man came to the same conclusion as countless honest hearts before him. His conclusion was that the things he had done in the past were NOT really what God calls immersion INTO Christ. He had not yet actually obeyed God in coming into the God designed contact with the blood of Jesus and having his sins WASHED away. And that man wanted to obey God and be a part of Christ’s body!

So what does the world often miss about being born into God’s family? According to the claims of the newspaper version of baptism, it is a way of “looking to Jesus for help” and an announcement to the public that we are now living for Jesus. Further, baptism is a confession (of faith in God), a proclamation (of faith in Jesus for salvation) and the dedication to a new life in Christ.

While all this sounds good (and indeed in many ways reflects some aspects of what God actually says), the problem is in not saying what God says on the subject. Stop and think for a moment: Anyone writing a thesis to prove some point always quotes acknowledged authoritative sources as proof that the conclusion is not merely one person’s opinion. A judge writes his “opinion” or decision in a case by quoting the relevant law that shows that judgement to be correct. In religious terms we sometimes talk about this as “speaking where the Bible speaks.” God’s word describes this as being sure we neither add to nor take from God’s word (Revelation 22:18-19); that we neither fall short (Hebrews 4:1) of or go beyond (2 John 9) what God says.

So, let’s ask God (through His word) just what He sees as the purpose of being baptized! Acts 2:38 says that we are baptized for (“in order to receive” in the Greek as well as the English meaning of the word) the forgiveness of our sins. Since salvation is being saved from our sins, baptism is also the time when God adds us to the church (Acts 2:47). Baptism, that is the active response or obedience to God’s command, washes away our sins (Acts 22:16). Thus we cannot be forgiven of or lose our sins in any other way! Furthermore, baptism brings us into contact with the death, blood, burial and resurrection.

John says of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5), “Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” While Paul tells us (Romans 6:3-4), “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” It is in baptism that we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) so that “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). And, just so we don’t misunderstand, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

So, is baptism just a nice way of telling the world that we are already saved? Or is it really that spiritual surrender that, through the incredible power of Christ Jesus, actually saves us? God answers through the apostle Peter, “baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Let’s strive to be those who believe (and base their beliefs, thoughts and ideas) solely upon the word of God. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Jesus Himself says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Lester P. Bagley

9/17/16 ~ Update from World Christian Broadcasting

From the Preacher’s Pen…

 RacineBuildingOne of the many efforts we as a congregation support to take the Gospel to the world is World Christian Broadcasting. While short-wave radio is not so important in America it does reach much of the rest of the world.

Several months back brother Andy Baker updated us on this work and we became involved. One of his major points was to tell of the planned station in Madagascar. That station is now on the air and reaching a multitude of new souls.

With that work already so successful there is now the opportunity to extend it even further. And that’s where we come in:

Update from World Christian Broadcasting

Dear Brothers and Sisters In Christ,

The broadcasts of World Christian Broadcasting from Station KNLS in Anchor Point, AK are tremendous. For 33 years, the gospel has gone out to about ½ of the world with now 20 hours of programming each day. God has richly blessed that signal. I have other great news to share with you

Madagascar World Voice Is On The Air! On Easter Sunday morning, the new station in Madagascar began broadcasting. Along with Alaska, the entire world is covered with the gospel. We have already heard from 50 cities where Arabic is the official language, 50 countries that picked up our Russian broadcasts and 432,000 Spanish listeners that responded within the first month of going on the air who heard our Spanish broadcasts. From the Chinese website, we have averaged over 1,000 pages being downloaded per day. The world is listening every day to 20 hours of programming from Alaska and 13 hours a day from Madagascar. From a couple of other radio stations, we are sending the message into Cuba and Latin America with Spanish programs with great results.

We feel the need to broadcast in Portuguese to Brazil and also in the Korean language to North and South Korea. North Korea is now the most persecuted country in the world. Since we cover South America with the gospel, we must add Portuguese to cover Brazil and the millions of people in the world who speak Portuguese. We are already thinking about adding French programming also. We are asking congregations of churches of Christ all over the country to prayerfully think about a onetime special contribution on Global Sunday, October 30th to enable these two languages to be added to our broadcasts. Regular contributions from churches and individuals help us with the day to day costs of covering the globe with the gospel. We need to raise extra funds to reach out to these new people groups speaking those languages. Could you communicate this need and our request to your home church? We could really use your help right now.

Wherever you have missionaries in the world or where you have special interest, we will drop multiple hours of the gospel story every day where they live.

I would be happy to come and visit with your church family in person and share with them information that would be helpful. We need your help to reach more people in their native tongue. Would you please help me open a door with your home church? Thanks so much.

Andy Baker, World Christian Broadcasting

As a congregation, we have already committed to contributing again to this work. For the requested October 30 special contribution we will begin with $1,000 and in addition to that any extra amount that you would like to contribute.

On Sunday, October 30 we will have envelopes for you to include any additional amount to go to this work or you may simply make a note on a check to add to the work.

Please give much prayerful thought to this work and to your opportunity to add to our contribution.

Lester P. Bagley

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9/11/16 ~ We Know the Number of Lives Lost, But Not the Number Saved

twin-towers(BNC) — Shortly after 11 Sept. 2001, we knew the number of lives lost. In New York, 2,753 died in the World Trade Center or as a result of the attacks. Another 224 died at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

New York Magazine has all kinds of statistics on the consequences of that day.

One number it does not have: how many were saved.

Stories have been told and retold about people whose lives were saved on that day.

But we’ve never seen a tally of the total number of people who lived on that day because of heroic actions of others and the selfless intervention of police, firemen, and citizens such as those who prevented United Flight 93 from crashing into the White House or the US Capitol.

Society still debates precautions that should have been taken to prevent such loss of life. Some say the threat of terrorist attacks is greater today than ever before. It may be that radical Islamists are refocusing their attacks to softer targets, as recent incidents in Europe might suggest.

However that may be, in an attempt to recognize the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 and the important efforts of the various countries to provide security to their citizens, we’d direct our attention to a spiritual reaction to this delicate moment in history.

The church of God has always faced the horrors of history by steadfastness in its mission. It has focused on its mission to save souls by the proclamation of the gospel. Aware of the masses who enter eternity every day to face final judgment, it works to add to the number of the saved.

In the US, saints struggled to fulfill their task in the midst of such crises like the Civil War. But struggle they did.

Missionaries in foreign countries have faced persecution, restrictions, confiscation of property, and death as they remained in place to do their work.

During World War II, missionary Sarah Andrews was imprisoned in Japan in 1942. Kevin Moore wrote that “because of damp conditions and a starvation diet, she contracted tuberculosis and was sent to her home in Numazu, Shizuoka to die.”

At home, she continued to work during the war, Kevin said.

Seventeen wounded soldiers were brought to Sarah’s house for her to nurse. She was allowed only one cup of rice each day, and at times was so weak she had to crawl between cots. She had to sell her furniture, piece by piece, to buy food. She boiled leaves and cornstalks for nourishment, used seawater for salt, and ate grasshoppers. Neighborhood children, to whom she had ministered, supplemented her measly diet and helped prolong her life. In July 1945, near the end of the war, the city was bombed while Sarah slept. The entire area was devastated, and the only house left standing was hers.

After the war, Sarah Andrews continued to serve in Japan teaching the gospel and so fulfilled her calling until the end.

As do so many of God’s people in the face of crises. While people die around us, either naturally or due to war, terrorism, or natural disasters, the family of God has but a single focus, that of saving souls for eternity.

We count those souls because each number represents a person created in the image of God, for whom Jesus Christ gave his life on a Roman cross.

God knows the number of the lost. And he knows the number of those who are being saved.

Not for nothing do we read about numbers in the book of Acts, as the church is established in Jerusalem, starting with three thousand, then growing to five thousand.

Not for nothing do we see disciples preaching the Good News as they are scattered because of persecution, and disciples facing opposition because they preached where the gospel had never been heard before.

It is God’s design to cover the earth with the message of salvation. He did it in the book of Acts, and he does it today, through his people.

So while no one apparently has done a count of those saved on 9/11, God’s people count the saved as souls who are precious in his sight.

Our count will not be precise, but God knows the actual number.

Our count is not done against the number of dollars spent, nor measuring the “per dollar efficiency,” as Roy Davison, missionary to Belgium, described it.

Be count we will, in the joy of seeing the power of God to save through the proclamation of Jesus Christ.

On this somber day when many remember 9/11, the body of Christ remembers her mission and rejoices in being used by God in the greatest frontal attack of all, rescuing the lost and giving eternal life to those who live in fear of death.

~ Randal Matheny

Brotherhood News

9/4/16 ~ A Question We Need to Stop Asking

.From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the greatest challenges to Christians is Bible study. If we fail to do it and do it properly we become like God’s people of old and are lost because of lack of knowledge (cf. Isaiah 5:13 and Hosea 4:6).

Yet we often have too much pride in ourselves and our own opinions to be willing to listen to God. Too often we have let Satan and the world define what is best for us. The only way we can know the truth is to learn God’s truth from God’s word.

No real disciple, no real student of God’s word merely reads the Book. That’s why Bible study and Bible classes take time.

Of course, we’ve heard all this before but it is easy to forget what is right when Satan constantly pulls us the wrong way. And sometimes it’s good for us to realize that all real Christians, all preachers and teachers struggle with the same issues. Consider a recent article by a preacher in Texas:

A Question We Need to STOP Asking in Bible Studies

In many ways, the quality of our Bible study will be determined by the quality of the questions we ask while we study. The better the questions, the more we will likely learn and grow. This is true in group Bible studies, like Bible classes, as well as personal Bible studies. So if we want to be better Bible students, we need to hone our question asking skills. With that in mind, here is one question I think we need to stop asking in Bible studies, why it’s a bad question, and some questions we can ask in its place.

The Question We Need to STOP Asking. There are many questions I think we should eliminate from our Bible studies, but at the top of my list is the question: “What does this verse mean to you?” Many times, a verse will be read in a Bible study and the teacher will ask the class, “What does this verse mean to you?” It could be that some teachers are simply asking, “What do you think this verse means?” In that case, it should probably be phrased like that.

And sometimes a participant in the study will volunteer the information without being asked, “To me this verse means…” proving this person had asked themselves the notorious question in their mind.

Why It’s a Bad Question. The reason it’s a bad question is that it implies the verse could legitimately mean different things to different people. The fact that many people believe biblical texts have different meanings to different people is reflected in the fact that so many people say things like, “Well, that’s your interpretation.” But the truth is, a biblical text – like any communicated message – cannot mean different things to different people.

A stop sign, for instance, cannot mean different things to different people. It must mean one thing to everyone. People are not free to determine for themselves what a stop sign means to them. Yet that’s exactly how we treat the Bible.

Determining the meaning of a text is not subjective. It’s not a matter of opinion or personal feelings. You can’t look inside your heart to find the meaning of a biblical text. The meaning of the text must be determined through proper biblical interpretation, a study called “hermeneutics.”

Read the Book. If we want to become better at biblical interpretation, the first thing we need to do is become better Bible readers. Often the meaning of a verse would be obvious if we would simply take the time to read the entire book in which that verse is found. But when a verse is read in isolation, the meaning is often obscure and seems subjective.

For instance, a Bible class teacher may read to his class Philippians 4:13 and ask, “What does that verse mean to you?” Someone in the class will speak up and say, “Well, to me, that verse means Christians will always be successful in life if we just have faith because Christ gives us strength to accomplish all of our goals.” Wrong. That is not what that verse means.

If the class had simply read the entire book of Philippians, it would be obvious that Paul was writing from prison and he was saying he could endure his painful situation and get by with much or with little because Jesus was his strength. It has no application to winning football games or scoring well on college placement tests.

Ask Better Questions. Getting better at biblical interpretation means replacing the, “What does this verse mean to you?” question with, “What does this verse mean?” In order to find the right answers, we have to ask better questions. First, we have to determine the answers to basic questions like:

  • Who wrote this book and to whom did he write it?
  • What kind of literary style is it (ex. historical narrative, law, poetry, didactic letter)?
  • When was it written?
  • Where was it written?
  • Why was it written?

After we answer these fundamental questions about the book, then we can start asking some more probing questions about particular verses. Try asking questions like:

  • How does this verse play into the point the author is making?
  • Is the author alluding to something he said earlier, something he would explain later, or something that is explained by another passage of Scripture?
  • What might be the opposite of what the author is saying? He’s saying, “Do this” as opposed to what?
  • What do some of the more obscure words mean?

These are just a few examples of questions we can ask in order to help us determine what a passage means.

Ask How it Applies to Us There is a personal step to Bible study, in which we ask, “How does this verse apply to us?” In other words, “Now that we know what this verse means, how should we change our thinking and our lives?” This is a good and healthy question. This is a question Bible class teachers ought to be asking. The answers to this question may be countless and provide hours of great discussion.

But remember, you can’t really know how a verse applies until you know what it means.

Wes McAdams online at RadicallyChristian.com

Are we really striving to be Christ-like people? If we are, then we’ll make the effort to gain and share what both Paul and Peter called the true knowledge of Christ by the diligent study of God’s word. Let’s make the effort to be real students, real disciples of Christ this week!

Lester P. Bagley